Viloence(s). Photo: Attilo Marasco
Articles, Reviews, Volume 7

The 2016 Journées Théâtrales de Carthage

The 2016 Journées Théâtrales de Carthage
By Marvin Carlson
Arab Stages, Volume 7 (Fall, 2017)
©2017 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

One of the most highly respected theatre festivals of the Arab world is the Journées Théâtrales de Carthage, emphasizing Arabic and African theatre and held every two years in Tunis. The 2016 program was the 18th, and consisted of 47 productions from 24 different nations. Although nearly half of the productions offered came from the Arab world, the countries represented were fairly evenly divided, with nine from the Arab world, nine from sub-Saharan Africa, and six from elsewhere, primarily Europe. Although most of the productions were about an hour in length, most were presented from early afternoon to early evening, and so it was difficult to see more than two or three productions each day, especially since they took place at ten different venues, scattered over the central area of Tunis.

Le Radeau. Photo: El Hamra

The Festival opened, fittingly, with a production from the Tunisian National Theatre, the theme of which could not have been more timely or appropriate. The production was Le Radeau (The Raft), conceived by Cyrine Gannoun and Majdi Abou Mataren. The minimalist setting in fact represented a large inflatable raft, the floor of which was a trampoline so that the eight actors in the ramp were in constant up and down motion, suggesting their sea passage. The international cast, including Syrians, Lebanese, Tunisians, and fellow Africans joined together in the all-too-familiar mutual upheaval of fleeing violence at home in search of an uncertain future across the sea. Their negotiations of interpersonal conflicts and dedication to a common goal resonated strongly with the overflow audience, which interrupted the production with frequent applause, not for a particularly theatrical moment, but for some stirring sentiment. The topicality of this well-performed piece and its use of performers from a variety of Arab and African theatre cultures made it a particularly apt opening selection.

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